A new home for more history

MORRIS – Inside the addition to the Grundy County Historical Society Museum, among the exhibits – some new, some moved and some unfinished – lies a modern desk setup. With its desktop computer and power cables, it seems out of place against the backdrop of old military uniforms, prairie living rooms and 19th-century farming implements. It’s informally called “Ken’s Corner,” and it’s one of the many ways the legacy of local historian Ken Sereno looms large over the museum and its addition.

A very valuable dollar

MORRIS – On New Year’s Eve 1951, three friends pooled their money together and went to the American Legion Hall on Washington Street in Morris to have a good time. At the end of the night, Jimmy Iverson, Marvin Mickelson and Gordon Vaksdal had one dollar left. They split it into three pieces, each took one and they said the last one alive would get to reunite the pieces. Iverson, who lives in Newark now, received the middle piece, with George Washington’s portrait. On July 11, members from al

Resident has torches made in Sycamore for two U.S. Olympiads

SYCAMORE – More than 30 years ago, a piece of Sycamore was at the start of two Olympiads. Turner Brass of Sycamore designed and made the Olympic torches that traveled to and lit the flames of the Lake Placid Winter Games and the Los Angeles Summer Games, and the torches still are here. Sycamore resident Jerry Pelan was superintendent of the Turner Brass plant at the time and, after the success of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, was presented with a plaque from the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing

New NIU exhibit shares tales of strife: 'We want pens and notebooks'

DeKALB – A new exhibit at the Blackwell History of Education Museum at Northern Illinois University chronicles the history of a university that was not allowed to exist for its first decade. The University of Tetova in Tetova, Macedonia, was founded in 1994, and its first lecture the following year was interrupted by police with machine guns and riot gear. It would be a decade before the classes could openly meet. “We thought their struggles to create a university for their ethnicity had paral

When Crime Pays

SYCAMORE – Illinois law allows law enforcement officials to seize property used in a crime or bought with the proceeds of criminal activity, which can lead to police agencies acquiring some unusual items, at least temporarily. That’s how, after busting a marijuana growing operation in Sycamore, the Sycamore Police Department became the owners of not only all the equipment necessary to grow marijuana, but also an embroidery machine valued at $10,000.

Moving on down the line

EARLVILLE — Carl Zimmerman first heard about Great Lakes Basin Railroad when his father called him in a panic. After checking a map himself, Zimmerman saw the proposed route would go through several properties the family owns or farms, passing close to both their homes. At Carl Zimmerman’s place, the rail would be about 900 feet from his house. “I thought, ‘We have to get the word out,” he said. So he set up a meeting at Earlville High School for community residents. While 200 people showed up to the meeting in Earlville, Zimmerman has connected with groups along the route and is part of a network in three states and 11 counties, all in opposition to Great Lakes Basin Railroad.

Former resident collected quilts for tornado victims

NAPLATE — Nancy Rick-Janis said she saw the news of the tornado on television at home in Downers Grove. “My brother Bob called me, and as he’s calling me I’m telling him, ‘You need to get in the basement because there’s a tornado headed your way.’” Her brother, Bob Rick, is a volunteer fireman and public works employee in Naplate. Her other brother, Jim, is the mayor. “For over 48 hours we had no idea if anyone was hurt, the damage, we couldn’t get any information,” Rick-Janis said. She said she came for a couple of days to help clean up debris. “After seeing the devastation, I went home and said ‘What could I do to help comfort the residents here?’”

‘I just want my kids to have a good Christmas’

It doesn’t take much for the bottom to fall out. After a string of bad luck, Layla Alton of La Salle found herself and two sons, Drake Griffith, 12, and Draven Griffith, 10, evicted from their home at the end of October. By Oct. 30, they were signed up and living at Illinois Valley Public Action to Deliver Shelter in Peru. With the holidays looming, it wasn’t an easy decision. “You gotta do what you gotta do, especially if you have kids,” Alton said. “So I made the decision of actually coming here to the PADS shelter and ever since then it’s been a wonderful experience.” Alton works and the boys attend school during the day, but the family will stay in the shelter through the holidays. They won’t be the only ones. IV PADS has reported its shelters are filled to capacity. Across its two shelters in Peru and Ottawa, IV PADS has 74 beds. Right now, every bed is occupied by someone who needed a place to stay, and more than one-third of them are children. In the Ottawa shelter, 25 of the 50 beds are occupied by kids.

Hispanics in the Illinois Valley react to election with hope and worry

The day after the presidential election, Pilar Solis of Peru said a boy approached her daughter at school. “He said, ‘You need to go to Mexico,’” Solis said. She explained to her daughter that wasn’t true. “I said, ‘You were born here. You don’t need to listen (to the boy).’” That same day, Aurora Medina of Mendota said, one of her sons came home from school and told her kids in school were “building a wall.” Medina works with Illinois Valley Services and with members of the Hispanic community in the Illinois Valley. “There are worries about how people will react,” Medina said. The 2016 presidential campaign “created a lot of hate after so much progress.”

An aerial view of the Silica Valley

There are a lot of holes in the ground in La Salle County. On Friday, members of the local environmental group Conserve Our Rural Ecosystem took flights over the Illinois Valley to track the activity of sand mines in the area. They invited along Ted Auch, Great Lakes program coordinator for FracTracker Alliance, to take pictures. Flights covered southern La Salle County, taking in aerial views of various mining and industrial operations north and south of the Illinois River. On the flight, Joe Harmon, a director for CORE, pointed out new rail spurs at facilities in Peru and Troy Grove, as well as planned facilities in both locations. Harmon said La Salle County is attractive to sand mining companies because of the type of sandstone available. The St. Peter sandstone in La Salle County is not only plentiful but also shallow. Easy access means lower costs for the mining companies.

'It's not just a name but a life' Memorial wall honors those who died in Middle East conflicts

MARSEILLES — Fifteen black granite blocks stand along the north shore of the Illinois River at Marseilles, thousands of gray names etched into the mirrored surfaces. High above the blocks, flags representing the United States, Illinois, prisoners of war and the different armed services snap in the wind. The river rushes behind, downstream from the Marseilles Dam. It’s not quiet, but it is peaceful. On the ground in front of the blocks are small items: children’s drawings, keepsakes, stones brought from someplace else, empty beer cans and bottles. Combat boots.

For the Majority of Undocumented Immigrants Who Remain in the Shadows, Churches Offer Sanctuary

6 million undocumented immigrants won’t receive relief under Obama’s executive action. Some churches are providing them with hope. On November 11, Miguel Sanchez Olguin gathered with his family and friends behind the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission to hear Father Jose Landaverde make an announcement: The church would grant Sanchez Olguin sanctuary from deportation. “We do what all Christians should do,” Landaverde said.